When we first reported two months ago on the new Seattle Police surveillance camera/wireless-mesh-communication system – after readers noticed cameras installed, unannounced, along Alki – SPD had expressed hopes of activating the system by March 31st – today.
Now that the date has arrived – in case you were wondering, we’ve verified it will come and go with no decision yet on when the system stretching from Fauntleroy to Ballard might be activated.
Mayor McGinn first said on February 11th, in a response to WSB, that “the system will not be operated without a thorough public vetting …” While he did not set specific criteria for that “vetting,” so far it has consisted of a briefing before the Seattle City Council’s Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology Committee on February 20th (WSB coverage here), a briefing at the Alki Community Council‘s February 21st board meeting (WSB coverage here), an SPD-led briefing/Q-A session at Alki Bathhouse on March 12th (WSB coverage here, with video of the entire meeting), and a similar session one week later at Belltown Community Center.
We were not at that March 19th meeting, but privacy/technology activist Phil Mocek, who has closely followed and researched this, recorded and published its audio:
Grant/equipment-related documents he had sought through a public-disclosure request also are now available online.
With no updates since the March 19th meeting, we checked with the mayor’s office at week’s end to see the status of a possible decision. Spokesperson Aaron Pickus replied, “SPD is still putting together additional public meetings.”
The system was described as “port security” in the original May 2012 City Council discussions of the $5 million federal grant that’s paying for it, but in interviews and discussions over the past two months, police also have talked about other ways they, Seattle Fire, and others plan to use the camera system in developing public-safety situations. They also said for the first time at the Alki meeting on March 12th that images from the cameras would be made available to the public online – likely with a frame refreshing every two minutes or so.
For now, along with awaiting SPD word on the “additional public meetings,” we also are awaiting the department’s documentation of protocol for the cameras’ operation, as mandated by new city rules the council approved earlier this month. SPD had said those rules were being drafted by a “steering committee.” Its membership has not been disclosed; Mocek’s public-disclosure request regarding its membership is still awaiting fulfillment.